Oakland Port to Occupiers: Don't shut us down

December 5, 2011 12:11:02 AM PST
A new plea came from the Port of Oakland on Sunday: Don't shut us down.

The plea was part of a strategy against plans by Occupy Oakland to blockade the port later in the month.

In the front section of the Oakland Tribune, readers found a full-page, color advertisement published by the port with the basic message of keeping the port open. Occupy protesters had called for ports to be shut down up and down the west coast next week.

The Port of Oakland is the country's fifth-largest shipping yard, and the public outreach is an effort to keep it from shutting down, even for a day, next week.

"It does not serve the goals of the movement to shut down the Port of Oakland," said Port Commission President Pamela Calloway. "The port needs to be open, and people need to be working here."

On Nov. 2, demonstrators were able to bring the port to a standstill as part of their Day of Action. Calloway says they are still adding up the cost from that action.

"It's in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, and that was for the event on Nov. 2," Calloway said. "We cannot afford to be shut down again."

When the port was shut down Nov 2., Calloway said she was at a trade conference in Africa and had to answer plenty of questions to potential international customers.

"People are concerned, is Oakland a safe place to be?" said Calloway. "We worked really hard with our customers, with our business partners, to make sure that they understand that we are open for business, we are a good place to do business."

Occupy Oakland organizers say the second planned shutdown is part of a coordinated effort to target ports from Anchorage to San Diego. The organizers say some of the motivation is in support of union workers in the Seattle area.

Occupy Oakland protester Boots Riley said the port shutdown was "in solidarity with the Longshore men in Long View, Wash., who are facing union-busting activities by EGT grain exporters."

But the second planned shutdown does not have the support of the Longshore Workers Union (ILWU). The ILWU issued a strongly-worded statement following the Occupy movement's announcement of their plans.

"The ILWU...and Local 21 are not coordinating, independently or in conjunction with, any self-proclaimed organization or group to shut down any port or terminal," the letter read.

Occupy Oakland still expects support from the ILWU, despite public statements from their leadership.

"What is happening is a community picket, a community blockade, and the ILWU historically has always respected community pickets and blockades," said Riley.

A spokesperson for the local ILWU chapter said they do not support the planned port shutdown because they were never approached by anyone at Occupy Oakland, so the union was not able to consider any participation and put it to a vote.


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